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Unexpected Camping Gear Must-Haves

By (view all posts by psutton)
at 8:56AM Tuesday April 26, 2011
under Loose Change

Camping here I come!  I've got my regular list of things to pack and it's long.  Included are toilet paper, sleeping bags, tent, flashlights and the list goes on and on.  It's definitely a chore to get everything together, but once I'm at the campground, tent set up, ahh...heaven! 
I have some expectations of what my camping trip should be like.  First I want to worry about only the basics, food and shelter.  I try to not care about what I look like, no mirrors allowed except the one in the car.  I don't want to hear about what Lindsay Lohan did to end up in court again. I don't even care who died on Desperate Housewives. No other concerns are allowed to pop into my mind on a camping trip--this is my stress free time to live like a Neanderthal. 

I know that Neanderthals didn't have a Coleman stove or lantern, nor did they have an awesome tent that pops up in ten minutes.  And I won't even try to pretend that they had a cooler full of beer, cookies and other goodies.  Though my camping experience would seem really cushy and decadent to a Neanderthal I still get the feeling that I am back to the root of being human (we're not Neanderthals after all).

As I've had more camping experience, in other words as I've gotten older, I found that I just can't live without some creature comforts on my trip to the woods.  And of course I am referring to car camping not backpacking, which is a whole other list of gear.  Included in my very short and incomplete list of camping must-haves are some things that other lists have omitted or have included as optional.

The number one must-have is a folding chair for each member in your camping group.  Talk about a way to ruin a great trip by arguing about who gets to sit where.  I've been stuck sitting on a rock and my bottom started to hurt after a while, plus you can't move the rock when the smoke blows in your direction.  There's always the campsite picnic table, but you end up being too far from the camp fire and it's not the most comfortable place to read.

That leads me to number two: a good book. This is a necessity for the perfect camping trip.  Let the kids go climb trees while you sit in your comfy folding chair and dive into a great story. If you are one of those people who is really not into reading, this is the perfect time to try a fun book again.  What else do you have to do?  You're at a campsite with no TV, no computer and (I recommend) no radio. Don't cheat and bring a portable DVD player or worse a satellite TV. You won't be getting back to basics with a million images hitting the back of your eyeballs in a matter of a few minutes.  If you brought a DVD player for the car trip, save it for the way back. 

I am not totally against technology and number three is an awesome way to get your kids into a little hiking. Try Geocaching with a GPS.  This will have to be planned before hand, unless you are taking your computer with you (a no-no in my book on how to behave like a Neanderthal). Your kids will start getting interested in the camping trip before you go when they go online to get coordinates and plan their treasure hunt.  A trail map that the kids are in charge of is also a good addition to this activity.

Next on the list is a pair of water shoes.  Most campsites are near a steam or lake.  If your are in a heavily visited spot you may find broken glass in the water.  Little rocks can also be painful.  Our feet are nothing like those of hunters and gatherers.  We have baby soft feet from our nice protective shoes and a girl wouldn't have it any other way!

The last on my list is a bit cliche, but I've never gone on a camping trip without the makings for S'mores:  Marshmallows, Hershey's chocolate bars, graham crackers and long skewers.  Yes, it's sticky, gooey and messy.  The kids end up with it all over.  Heck, I end up with it all over.  I even hate cleaning up the skewers in the dark after all the dishes are already done. But, it's a fabulous camping tradition that lets me eat chocolate and burn food--who can argue with that?

I've got my necessities and I'm a happy camper!  What can't you live without on your camping trip?